Share expertise with customers

HIM’s C C Tracking Programme has shown that while independent retailers appreciate the support and expertise of suppliers, they turn to their wholesalers or C C partners first for advice, then trade magazines followed by suppliers.

Unfortunately a quarter of retailers say they don’t need any advice whatsoever (where would Tesco be today if it hadn’t listened to customers, colleagues, share-holders, trade associations etc over the years?).

However cash and carries do not appear to be fulfilling their customers’ needs. Retailers were asked for ratings on how friendly and helpful their cash and carry was in 2003 and again in 2005 and the results showed 2005’s ratings were lower compared with what was achieved in 2003.

“Advice” often means negotiating promotions with suppliers but can wholesalers go further and become real partners to independents? We know that only half of all retailers think sales are going to grow in their stores in 2006, so now may be the time for wholesalers to up the ante and create a point of difference by sharing their retail expertise with their customers to help them drive up shop sales. This can be done in C C branches (supplier forums, business development packs, case studies shared by other retailers) as 80% of retailers shopping in the C C are the owners of the business.

Only 13% of retailers think services can help drive up shop sales. Not only are services major profit contributors in their own right, but services drive footfall and services shoppers usually buy other products too (cigarettes, newspapers, fresh top-up lines and BWS are typical purchases with services).

Most independent retailers think price is the most important thing to shoppers. It’s not. Price is just one of five key retail appeals important to shoppers. What advice can wholesalers give to their customers to improve in the other four areas (availability, service, range and friendly staff) which will then improve the price image of the store?

Best-in-class retailers will go to any lengths to keep products in stock. Are wholesalers doing all they can to make top-up trips to C Cs (which account for 60% of all trips) as quick as possible (location is the top reason why retailers visited their chosen C C, not price)?

One example of good practice is at Makro’s refurbished Charlton branch which has signs all around the checkouts saying “help us to help you” with suggestions to keep the speed of service quick when paying (load smaller items on to the conveyer belt, keep heavier items on the trolleys, have bar codes facing the sales assistant). There were plenty of additional staff near the checkouts to keep queues to a minimum. However, industry wide ratings for speed of service were lower in 2005 (7.3/10) compared with 2003 (7.6/10).

About half of the retailers HIM has spoken to have access to the internet. Most of them have visited either their wholesalers’ or suppliers’ web sites, mainly again for information on promotions. No surprise there, but can wholesalers and suppliers also offer advice on successful implementation of the promotions and tips on maintaining sales once the promotion period has ended?

Retailers now source products from a number of places: typically three different C Cs, delivered wholesalers and increasingly supermarkets. If I was a retailer, what I’d want from my C C is:

guaranteed availability – “If I’m out of stock, I don’t expect you to be out of stock”.

Speed of service – there is every chance I will be top-up shopping very frequently – I will want to be in and out of the branch as quickly as possible.

Staff who know me and my business.

A partner organisation that goes out of its way to help me grow sales.

Good prices.

Premium brands.

Finally, we’ve just gone through Christmas: Valentine’s Day, Mothers’ Day, St Patrick’s Day and Easter are all rapidly approaching. Shoppers are increasingly looking for last minute panic solutions – c-stores fit the bill for 20% of UK adults (source CTP). What is my wholesaler partner doing to help me exploit these events professionally? The opportunities are out there – I just need help to exploit them.

For more information, contact Tom Fender at HIM on 07802 336333 or

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